But in West Virginia, lawmakers and handicapped advocates say the law is seldom enforced, a fact they want to change with a new corps of citizen watchdogs. Backers tout this as a better way to enforce the law, but we need some cost estimates first.
Co-sponsored by Sen. John Blair Hunter, D-Monogalia, the bill would have police train volunteers, then issue them disposable cameras and booklets of forms. They'd photograph the offending vehicle, place a copy of the form on the windshield, then send the other to police, who would issue the offender a ticket by mail.
Now comes the part that raises doubts. Although volunteers wouldn't be paid and the cost of cameras, booklets and training would be minimal, volunteers would be covered by police departments' liability insurance and workmen's compensation.
Given the uncertainty involved in those costs, we recommend the program begin on a trial basis, with a limited number of volunteers, until the numbers become clearer. We'd also like to see lawmakers compare the cost of doing this with volunteers versus contracting it out to private firms that would provide their own insurance, and replacement patrol people when other monitors have to go to court.
We raise these issues not because we don't believe that keeping handicapped spots for handicapped people is a laudable goal. It is, but because West Virginia's budget is tight, even the right things must be done as economically as possible.